Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Jobless deserve better from state

If Florida's unemployment compensation system were a private business that depended on customer satisfaction, it would have been shuttered long ago. But unfortunately for the unemployed, Gov. Rick Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity has run the system just as some Republican leaders wanted: by denying thousands of legitimate claims over the past four years. Once again, the federal government has been forced to come to the rescue of Floridians whose state government has failed them. As the governor seeks re-election, he needs to correct a situation that increases cynicism about government and has resulted in the recent recession bringing even more pain to unemployed Floridians.

The U.S. Labor Department's Civil Rights Center issued a sharp rebuke to Scott's department last month, saying the agency's administration of unemployment compensation violated the civil rights of unemployed Floridians, particularly those who are disabled or speak Spanish or Creole.

The federal agency's investigation began shortly after the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 decided that all unemployment applications in Florida needed to be submitted over the Internet — ignoring that 40 percent of applicants preferred to use the phone. For applicants to collect an average weekly check of just $230, the Legislature also required them to answer 45 questions and prove they were contacting at least five employers weekly. Never mind that unemployment compensation is underwritten by private employers and only available to employees who are not fired for cause.

The Labor Department also found Florida cut too many corners as it moved to an online-only application process: It failed to translate relevant information into Spanish and Creole, the state's two largest minority-language groups; it failed to provide adequate provisions for the disabled to apply for benefits; it operated a hotline for complaints and questions that was routinely overwhelmed; and it frequently disconnected callers or promised return calls that never came. And when potential beneficiaries succeeded in reaching a live operator, their success at obtaining the information they needed was not assured.

None of this is a surprise. Throughout 2012, various Florida media outlets reported the implementation problems with the Legislature's 2011 law change. A 2012 Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau story noted how difficult it was to get a phone call to the hotline answered. Florida now ranks last in the nation for the percentage of people eligible for unemployment benefits who actually receive them. Only 17 percent of applicants have navigated the official byzantine maze.

The initial response to the Labor Department's report from Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity was not encouraging. The agency defensively claimed the federal agency was responding "to questionable allegations by a special interest group." Regardless of who initiated the complaint, the reality is that Floridians who qualify for unemployment compensation are failing to receive it simply because Scott's administration — with the Legislature's blessing — has made it too difficult. That's just bad and ineffective government, and the governor should fix it.

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Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

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Published: 12/06/17
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Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

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Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

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Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
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Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17